Quince barrelled the truck out of town. Even with the hovers, it bounced and complained about the rough terrain, and they bottomed it out more than once.
“When we get back to The Bucket,” Maychange ordered to Clarisence and Quince, “you two do whatever you need to get us back in the air. I want her ready for Fold in under ten minutes.”
“We can do it in five,” Quince bragged. He stared out the windshield wide eyed suddenly. “If we get back to The Trebuchet,” he added.
Ahead of them, three trucks had built up an impromptu block. A couple of Rain Dog’s men opened fire as The Trebuchet’s crew came into sight. Quince wrenched on the wheel, turning the side of the hover truck to the bounty hunters. Bullets pinged along the side of the truck, and the driver side window exploded glass onto the passengers. In the back, Sore took a few shots at the mercenary trucks. One of the bounty hunters went down in a spray of red, and the others took temporary cover, still firing at The Trebuchet crew.
Quince revved the engine, and tore off back towards town. Ahead of them, Rain Dog and another truck were coming up fast. Quince smiled, and positioned their truck to be coming right at Rain Dog. Rain Dog’s smile was visible even from this distance. He did nothing to get out of the way.
Maychange stared at Rain Dog’s truck, barrelling at them. “We’re playing chicken?” he asked.
“Looks that way,” Quince replied. “I’m banking on your man there not knowing all about these trucks.”
“That’s a fair bet,” Maychange agreed. He had no idea about these trucks either.
“Oh, you are not serious,” Sore questioned from the back. He grabbed a hold of the roll bars, and motioned for Reese to do the same. In the truck, Clarisence checked her seat belt, and tucked herself into crash position.
Maychange watched Rain Dog’s truck rushing to meet them. Neither he nor Quince seemed to have any plan of swerving. “I hope you know what you’re doing Quince,” Maychange warned.
Quince stayed on his collision course. “You just find something to hold on to, captain.”
Quince waited till the trucks had almost met. He slammed the breaks, while simultaneously gunning the thrusters. In the same fluid motion, he brought the truck back into drive. The hover thrusters, confused about exactly what they were supposed to be doing, pointed straight at the ground for a moment. They lifted the speeding truck straight up, while momentum kept it moving forward. They lifted over Rain Dog’s truck, and continued straight past.
Maychange smacked his head on the dashboard as they came down hard. Sparks flew from the bottom of the truck, and the hover thrusters groaned angrily at their misuse. Maychange got a brief glance at Rain Dog in the rear view mirror. The bounty hunter watched them with a mixed look of fury and awe. He was already waving for his men to give chase as he turned his own truck around.
Five trucks in all, with only Sore firing parting shots at them. Reese banged hard on the sliding back window. “Maychange,” Reese called from the back. “give me your gun!”
Maychange thrust his pistol out the back window. “Where’s yours?”
“I’m in a skirt,” Reese declared indignantly as she took Maychange’s pistol. “Where the hell do you think I’d hide a gun?”
“I probably wouldn’t answer that captain,” Quince suggested.
“Just worry about driving,” Maychange replied.
There was a crack, as Sore took his shot behind them. The windshield of one of the pursuing trucks shattered, and the driver hung limp. Most people go limp right after a bullet enters their brain. The truck fishtailed, and flipped over, spilling it’s back passengers out before rolling over them. One of the other trucks careened into the fallen truck, and dramatically went up in a ball of fire. Maychange nodded his approval at the odds.
Two of the other trucks steered around the mess, still keeping on Maychange and his crew. Reese and Sore dropped prone in the bed of the truck as bullets riddled the tailgate. Behind them, Rain Dog was catching up with his crew. He didn’t bother going around the accident, but leapt through it, fire trailing behind his truck.
Reese popped up, and put two bullets through Rain Dog’s windshield. The first took out his passenger, and the second came close to Rain Dog. It would have been a clean hit, but Rain Dog tilted his head at the last moment. He was still smiling as he used the butt of his revolver to clear the shattered windshield from his truck. He calmly pointed the revolver forward, and took a few wild shots. Reese ducked again, and the bullets smashed through the back window into the crowded cab.
Maychange felt one of the bullets pass clean through his collar bone. He grimaced, but ignored it. “Everyone ok?” he asked.
“Fine,” Clarisence muttered. She was still in crash position from Quince’s earlier stunt, making her possibly the smartest person in the cab.
“Fine,” Quince agreed. Blood flowed freely from where one of the bullets had grazed his temple, but he was busy driving, and didn’t really give it notice. Quince smiled at the captain. “We’re all fine here. How are you?”
He watched out the windshield. “What are we hoping to do in town?”
“We’re not going to town,” Quince replied. Buildings began to crop up around them. “Alright. I mean, we are going to town, but it’s not our destination.”
Quince shot into town, and dodged through the streets, hoping to lose some of Rain Dog’s crew. The fight at The Barn had tumbled into the streets, and Quince had to veer hard to avoid pedestrians. Rain Dog’s crew had no intention of losing Quince, though He did manage at least to make some distance. Quince put his foot down once he’d cleared the buildings, and put the engine through its paces.
“There’s a gorge just outside of town,” Quince continued. “Or a canyon. I’m never sure what the difference is between the two.”
The truck groaned as the terrain became less stable. “Of course there’s a canyon,” Maychange commented. “Wouldn’t be a country chase without one.”
“Could be a gorge,” Quince offered. “It’s coming up now.”
Maychange looked out, expecting to see rock walls raising around them. “I don’t see anything,” he commented, just before the ground fell out from beneath the truck.
Everything in the cab went near anti-grav as the truck fell down the side of the canyon. Quince hummed to himself as he struggled with the controls. The truck’s thrusters pushed along the wall on the odd occasion, slowing their decent, but mostly they free fell. Quince managed to get the thrusters beneath them before they reached the bottom. Despite the cushion of air, the truck slammed hard, and Sore lost his rifle in the landing. The back left thruster sparked and sputtered. They skidded along the bottom of the canyon, and rode sideways up the opposite side before flying off down the center.
“See,” Quince continued. “It’s all about knowing these trucks.” There was an explosion behind them as two of their remaining pursuers proved Quince’s point. Quince looked back, disappointed. “I thought we’d get a full canyon chase out of this,” he commented.
“Still a chance,” Maychange commented with a point behind them. One of the trucks was riding the wall, dancing just around the crash site.
Again it was Rain Dog that stayed on them. He’d pushed his passenger out sometime back, and his back bed crew had either bailed, or had been lost on the canyon entrance. Rain Dog didn’t seem to mind the lack of company. He smiled broadly as he fired out his open windshield.
Reese returned fire. She slammed a few bullets into the front of Rain’s truck, and smiled as smoke rose from beneath the hood. Rain Dog slowed, but he didn’t stop. He panged a few more bullets of the body of the truck, and forced Reese to duck down again.
Quince dodged up the far wall, riding it like a wave. He held tight along it as the canyon forced a ninety degree turn. Behind them, Rain Dog took the turn hard, shooting up sparks as he grinded the side of his truck along the canyon wall.
Quince smiled triumphantly as he opened up the throttle again. Another tight turn ahead, and he was sure he’d lose Rain Dog. “I was worried he actually knew how to drive for a second there,” Quince commented. “He just lucked the landing though. Gotta know these trucks,” he stated again. He wrenched the wheel, ready to ride the next wall into the turn. “See, the trick is to think of them as…”
There was a horrid rending noise, and a bang, as the left thruster broke loose. It bounced a moment or two ahead of them before it crashed hard beneath the truck, tearing and sparking its way across the bottom of the truck. Quince began humming again, this time with a certain urgency to his tune. The truck rode the turn nose down, and Maychange stared at the ground through the windshield. The back end of the truck tore rivets into the canyon wall, and finally flipped the truck to its side. Quince tried to ignore the sparks and dirt flying in his window. He struggled to get the remaining thrusters in line. Reese and Sore clung for dear life to the roll bars, staying to the side not currently dragging along the wall.
“Quince?” Clarisence muttered from her tucked position. There wasn’t much to add.
“I’ve got this,” Quince replied through gritted teeth.
“Quince!” Sore added. He stumbled, and put his foot through the back window. He’d have kicked Clarisence in the back of the head, were she not still ready for impact. Smartest one in the cab.
“I’ve got this,” Quince muttered again. He managed to force the thrusters into a hard right position. The thrust threw the truck from the wall, and towards the ground. Quince struggled the misbehaving truck immediately into reverse, keeping it from slamming nose first into the ground. Finally, with some very desperate changing of gears, and equally desperate humming, Quince got the truck turned in the air to land belly first on the ground. The momentum carried the truck for a few more feet before it skidded to a halt. It then gave up the ghost, and shut down.
“See?” Quince noted. “I’ve got this.”
Maychange exhaled, unaware that he’d been holding his breath the whole time. Clarisence rose her head, looking quite surprised that they were still alive. Sore pulled his leg from the window. His pants were shredded, but he only had a few cuts. Reese hopped down, pistol already pointed out towards the corner they’d just ridden. The rest of the crew got out of the truck cautiously.
Rain Dog walked around the corner, his truck left somewhere behind. He smiled wide when he saw Maychange. Rain Dog fired his revolver into the air, and then pointed it at The Trebuchet crew. “Now, that’s quite enough of all this,” he said. “You folks are turning easy money into actual work, and I hate that.” Rain Dog kept his wide smile. “Now, you’ve all gone and cost be a bunch, but that ends now. We’re all going to take a bit of a ride to my ship, then you are all coming to meet my employer.”
Rain Dog looked the crew over, finally settling his eyes on Clarisence. “You,” he stated. “You girl. You come walk with Uncle Rain Dog, that way I have someone to shoot if anyone gets out of line.”
Reese shook her head. She walked forward, gun still aimed at Rain Dog. “I don’t think you’ve been paying attention,” she stated. “You had a chance to walk away. We’ve killed your crew, and we’ll kill you.” She cocked the hammer of Maychange’s pistol. “Now, drop your gun, and bugger off.”
“Give it up woman,” Rain Dog stated with a laugh. “You’re a terrible bluffer. I’ve been keeping track of you. You’re out of bullets.”
“Am I?” Reese held the gun low with a disappointed frown, and pulled the trigger. Rain Dog’s kneecap exploded in a vapour or red gore, and the man dropped screaming. Reese tossed the empty pistol to Maychange. “You’re right captain,” she stated, “That was satisfying.”
“Everyone gets better use out of my toys,” Maychange replied. He kicked Rain Dog’s revolver to Reese. “Alright. You all see if Mr. Dog’s truck is still functioning. If not, start walking. I’ll be with you soon.”
No one questioned Maychange’s orders. He watched them walk away before he turned a stern glance to Rain Dog. The bounty hunter was digging for something in his jacket. “I wouldn’t,” Maychange warned.
“Just getting my smokes,” Rain Dog commented. “Man knows when he’s beat.” He showed Maychange the pack before he fished a cigarette out of it, and lit it up. “See, I know you’re probably taking this all personal, but me? I was just doing my job.” Rain Dog inhaled smoke deep into his lungs. When he spoke, it trickled from his lips. “Could have been anyone showing up here Maychange. Someone else still will. I just got here first.”
Maychange shrugged. “Yeah, about that. See, you can go on about just doing your job, or how there’ll be others, or whatever makes you feel justified. Let me tell you another story though. You’ve taken something very important from my crew. It could have been anyone, but it wasn’t. It was you.”
Rain Dog watched Maychange load his pistol. Despite the obvious pain from his knee, he smiled wide at Maychange. “So, you gonna kill me here? That why you sent your crew away?” Rain Dog blew a ring of smoke. “Don’t want them to see you get your hands dirty, do you?”
“What? No, my crew’s seen me kill folk before.” Maychange looked down the sight of his gun casually. “I’m not going to kill you, though. I wouldn’t waste the bullet.”
Maychange considered. “Alright,” he admitted. “That’s a bit of a lie. Man like you? I’d waste several bullets on.” Maychange smiled, and put a bullet in Rain Dog’s good knee.
Rain Dog spat his cigarette out in surprise, and screamed a good long slew of obscenities. “Why?” he managed.
“Why?” Maychange stopped smiling, and shot Rain Dog through the right hand. He watched Rain Dog roll about a bit, then put a final bullet through the bounty hunter’s left elbow.
“You took away my crew’s chance at a comfortable life. Now I’ve taken yours. Just seems right.” Maychange scooped up Rain Dog’s cigarette, and placed it back in the hunter’s mouth. “Enjoy your walk back to town.”